By Alex Martel and Ishan Puri
You've likely managed a mental list of the pros and cons and been swayed a bit by relatives and teachers extending their congratulations (and their not-so-secret support for X University). What you think is important now may not hold true down in a couple months, so the best strategy should be introspective and compare distinct opportunities. With your college list in mind how do you start on the college decision?
Tours are the most popular option for many prospective freshman and very insightful as they provide direct engagement with campus. You'll want to picture daily life to help take your college decision from "maybe" to "yes." The architecture will wrap around you as you brush past students rushing to their next class.
Things have changed in the past decade as college presence extend beyond campus. While physical tours get you close to the architecture, video tours can shed light on the inner-workings of the university and answer questions at your own pace. Colleges want you to learn more and make it very easy to explore virtually. Do you need a bike? How do I get to class? What's that building? All of the specifics can be revealed on-screen.
Perhaps one of the most energetic and frantic times on campus outside of the first few days of class. Colleges pack countless events into schedules as well as courtyards, academic departments, and any public spaces. Student clubs stand ready next to their informational booths ready to talk about mutual interests. Student bands and musical groups pepper the day with impromptu performances. Speaking to any student is the quickest way to learn specifics and get an insider perspective on everything you're hearing.
Depending on school policy, schools sometimes offer housing for prospective freshman where they can experience a dorm and learn from current freshman. The mini-immersion blends tour aspects with daily student life. Sure enough the dining halls will be open for sampling as you wander the unfamiliar landscape.
You'll be able to get the nitty gritty for a college from their students but what about the surrounding area? While your college decision should definitely have the school in mind, nearby offerings are incredibly important for variety of the 4 years of undergrad. Look for commitments to the arts, number of burrito spots in the vicinity, late-night pizza spots, and public events. College isn't just about the books, there's a lot to see in your free time and on the regular.
Click here for part 2 of our series on college decisions.